Does all that crooning about drinking and divorce in country music contribute to the prevalence of suicide in its listeners? That’s the question Steven Stack and Jim Gundlach seek to answer in a recent study entitled The Effect of Country Music on Suicide. The report concludes that country music, indeed, contributes to suicide rates:
Country music is hypothesized to nurture a suicidal mood through its concerns with problems common in the suicidal population, such as marital discord, alcohol abuse, and alienation from work. The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate. The effect is independent of divorce, southernness, poverty, and gun availability. The existence of a country music subculture is thought to reinforce the link between country music and suicide. Our model explains 51% of the variance in urban white suicide rates.
Music functions as both a window and a mirror. It is a window that provides a glimpse of what is driving the culture. And it is a mirror that reflects the preferences of its listeners. So what does it reveal about us when country music contributes to suicide rates?
Many of the lyrics embedded in country music speak to the trials and tribulations of southern culture. Whether its singing about the loss of momma, the end of a marriage or the sorrow of another night in the local honky tonk, country music is often marked by despair. So, it should come as no surprise that this kind of music sometimes contributes to the greatest example of despair in the world – suicide.
Suicide is the most horrifying form of death there is. Why? Because it is the ultimate act of pride. Though it seems to be an act of humility, suicide is actually the pinnacle of hubris as someone determines that the taking of their life is more important than the abandonment of all those who are connected with them. Moreover, in suicide, they present an anti-gospel by destroying the life that has been created in God’s image.
Whether country music actually causes suicide or whether its lyrics are more volatile than other forms of music are still up for debate. But what is certain is that suicide is evidence of complete despair.